Tonight, two weeks after our last child’s first birthday, I reinstated my gym membership.

I went through the reenrollment process with a young, sprightly girl who seemed genuinely happy to help me.

“A pregnancy leave! How nice. Congratulations on the birth of your baby! Just fill in the baby’s name and date of birth on this form and he can go to Child Watch while you work out.”

“Great!” I fill out the form and hand it back.

“Okay, you’re good to—wait, don’t you mean October 2013?”

“Er, no. 2012.” Ms. Young and Sprightly stares at me.

I mumble, “There were complications.” (translation: “Life is complicated.”)

She still stares.

“But I’m here now!” small, awkward fist pump.

“Oh. Okay. Well then.” She hands me my ID and looks away.

Thanks, young sprightly girl.

The workout is great. I feel more alive, happier. On the drive home, I can feel the realignment of my spine, my neck. I can also tell just how sore I’ll be tomorrow.

Even though it’s barely after 5pm, it’s dark on the drive home, and store lights shine bright. I can see into Saul’s, where people eat free pickles and over-priced latkes. Twinkling lamps light the place where several years ago a friend—rich, East coast—took me for tapas and mojitos.

In the dark-made-bright, people seem to bustle. They seem fuller, somehow, then perhaps they think they are. Peppermint has replaced pumpkin, and when I get home, Rachel is making her Christmas list.

I start cooking, among other things, winter squash with butter and brown sugar. Nana will return next week, Collin the week after.

Andy and Rachel visit the porch to look at 6pm stars and I’m shooing Aaron away from the stove, wooden spoon in hand.

Tonight the early dark brings joy and something… else. Some frustration that none of this can be neatly pocketed, pulled out when I need it. It is fleeting, incapable of capture. Bittersweet and elusive.

Tomorrow, headed home on a crowded train full of tired people, legs sore and back aching, I will curse the early dark. But in this moment, with stars and vertebrae aligned, sticky smiles shining under a Berkeley sky, I am, almost, happy.

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Porch view.

Porch view.